We live in a world that is almost unimaginable in its convenience and ease. The first flight across America, just over 100 years ago, took over 30 days to complete and required 70 crash-filled “hops”. Today, a standard airline can fly the same distance in a few hours. A pioneer family would see a meal take hours to prepare, whereas the harried family of today can microwave food in seconds. Make no mistake, we live in a time of unprecedented material ease and privilege for many.
Yet, for all this, how often do we still hear complaints? A flight delay of an hour becomes a crisis worthy of posting on Facebook. Not having the right “quick food” in a stocked pantry can become a major gripe for a family possessing more food than many could ever dream of. “First World Problems” is the mocking title given on social media, though the irritation and unhappiness of the participants seems real enough.
It seems the more we gain convenience, the more we chase a contentment we never quite seem to find. Even in the church, some seek more than the Word of God, looking in extra-biblical solutions for happiness, “secrets to have it all”, the praises of the world in exchange for secular concessions, or promises of holiness somehow suffused with large material gain.
For all of society’s advancements, it seems we have lost the ability to be content. Does that mean we should cease to try to better ourselves, or not strive to learn and grow? Certainly not, but the Bible does speak of what we should really be pursuing in order to find contentment.
Proverbs has much to say in terms of what our contentment should lie in, sentiments echoed throughout God’s Word. As stated above, contentment does not mean simply not working or “taking it easy”. Proverbs is hard on the character of the sluggard, whose character is defined as a deceitful “hedge of thorns” (Prov. 15:19), and yet is lazy in that he will “not plow in the autumn” (Prov. 20:4). He chases after easy promises and a rest from labor–but in the end, “he will seek at harvest and have nothing” (v.4). The sluggard isn’t merely looking for the quick, easy gain–he’s always wanting what he can’t have. The sluggard’s soul “craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied” (Prov. 13:4).
So, as we see, it’s good to work, but it’s also good to not be covetous while working–in other words, not to work simply for a love of money or for material things that, in the end, will leave us with nothing. “Work with contentment” appears to be the worthy goal in all this.
Of course, part of contentment is recognizing what we have is sufficient. A material culture that judges accomplishment by outward gain doesn’t like, or really understand, that word. To the world, “sufficient” is located in the same place as “content”–perpetually just over the next hill. But sufficiency, true sufficiency, comes to us in the Bible in many ways. We are taught of the sufficiency of Scripture (2 Tim. 3:16-17). We are given the absolute sufficiency of God’s grace in preserving us in adversity (2 Cor. 12:9). We are reminded just how very complete we are in the love of God, and just how sufficient that is (Col. 2:10). Finally, we are reminded how Christ’s one great sacrifice was sufficient in covering a multitude of sins, and how the Cross paid the impossible debt for souls that could never have bridged the chasm of sin by their own works (Rom. 3:24-25).That is the message of the Savior we should work for, to spread every day through our witness at work, at home, and yes, even when we’re waiting at gate for that delayed flight.
When we recognize the contentment offered by recognizing the sufficiency of Christ, the sufficiency of God’s Word, and the sufficiency of God’s incredible grace in persevering and provisioning, we can find a deeper joy and peace than any transitory, fleeting pleasures and accomplishments of the world could ever offer. That is true contentment–seeing with eyes that look to treasures stored in heaven, and not to those that the world will judge to never quite be enough. Is our contentment in our salvation and hope through Jesus Christ, or are we looking outside of eternity for this? We should work diligently–but never forgetting who we should be working for, and how we should be counting true gain. Ultimately, are we working for ourselves, or are we working for “as for the Lord and not men” (Col. 3:23)?
1) What purpose and attitude does God desire in our daily work?
2) How can our daily work glorify God?
3) Is our work or office solely a means to a material end, or is it a potential mission field for sharing the Gospel?